Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Aug. 11
Simplicity, aggression and a deft production team led to WWE hitting a high note with Brock Lesnar and John Cena just before SummerSlam.
The biggest match of the biggest event of the summer received focus aplenty. The result was a buildup that should be mimicked in the future.
WWE adding Kevin Steen to its indy-flavored developmental system, the WWE Network's expansion and two outstanding NXT bouts rounded out the week's best offerings. Inattention aimed at the tag team division provided the opposite.
Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and The Usos found themselves watching the spotlight shine on other Superstars.
In the final stretches of the road to SummerSlam, what matches and moments most entertained? Which of WWE's choices deserved to be celebrated or blasted? The following recap of the week that was in WWE answers those questions.
Best: Kevin Steen Signs with WWE
WWE is stockpiling talent.
Not long after Kenta and Fergal Devitt headed to NXT, WWE officially signed Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla star Kevin Steen. On Tuesday, the company announced on its website that Steen was now part of the WWE familly.
Fans may have guessed that Steen's non-bodybuilder physique would mean WWE would never come calling. Clearly, though, Triple H and Company have been watching the Canadian brawler somersault and thump his way to great matches on the independent circuit.
He will be one of NXT's top prospects right away, a welcome addition with over a decade of experience.
Steen heads to a developmental system that boasts some of the best indy wrestlers in the world. His old partner and rival Sami Zayn will be waiting for him.
Worst: Xavier Woods-Led Stable Apparently Dropped
Putting an angry Xavier Woods in a Brother Love-like suit and having him lead Kofi Kingston and Big E out of midcard purgatory was a brilliant move. Having that alliance fade away after it had barely taken its first steps was not.
WWE seems to have abandoned the stable that drew comparisons to The Nation of Domination.
Big E wrestled Rusev on Friday's SmackDown without Woods and Kingston at ringside and without even mentioning his comrades. The stable didn't appear on Raw either. Kingston then took on Seth Rollins on Tuesday's Main Event.
Gone was the newly hostile version of the high-flyer. Gone was the sneering version of Woods urging him on from the corner.
If WWE has indeed just dropped this group, it has made a mistake.
The faction was a smart way to give all three men some direction. It had begun to shift their characters into more compelling territory. Its formation also gave the tag team division some needed depth.
Suddenly it's gone, a potential hit song truncated after just a few bars.
Best: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena Buildup
WWE is banking on Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena being the central selling point for SummerSlam. Despite those stars' confrontations and pre-SummerSlam appearances kept to a minimum, the company has still been able to do that effectively.
Monday's Raw centered around that bout, providing great momentum.
Paul Heyman's rap, Lesnar's confronting a ring full of Hall of Famers and another fabulous promo from Cena made it easy to get excited about champion and challenger colliding on Sunday. It continues to be a simple story, one of a beast looking to conquer a hero.
WWE then outdid itself with a SummerSlam precursor special on the WWE Network. This program felt like something one would see for a UFC fight or boxing match, a slick, well-edited production that added a big-fight feel to one that already had it.
Officials will hope that all that translates into a large number of fans subscribing to the WWE Network.
Worst: The Usos Get Snubbed
The Usos being left off the SummerSlam card is a product of missed opportunities.
The Usos and The Wyatt Family put on stellar shows at WWE's last two major events. The tag team title bout was one of Money of the Bank's top efforts, and the 2-out-of-3 Falls rematch at Battleground surpassed it.
Instead of following that up with a new feud or one last battle between those teams, WWE has chosen to ask The Usos to step aside for SummerSlam.
The marquee event still doesn't have a a home for Jimmy and Jey.
They clashed with RybAxel and the odd pairing of Rob Van Dan and Sheamus on Tuesday's Main Event. No SummerSlam bout came out of that.
Goldust and Stardust have been too busy rambling about the cosmic key and not earning wins to put themselves in contention. Kofi Kingston and Big E's tag team appears to have been dissolved. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have been too busy helping Bray Wyatt beat up on Chris Jericho to continue their pursuit of The Usos.
As a result, WWE has left itself with few options for the tag champs, who will have no chance to follow up two great pay-per-view matches with another.
Best: NXT Delivers Twice
A quartet of prospects acted as if Thursday's NXT was a pay-per-view event, putting on impressive showings in the ring.
Bayley and Sasha Banks collided for the right to face Charlotte for the NXT Women's Championship at a later date. The bout showed that both women are (along with Charlotte) the division's top stars and ready for a call-up.
Banks was her usual swagger-filled self, barking at her foe and sauntering between suplexes. She displayed her outstanding mat wrestling skills in grounding Bayley. Her submission holds looked especially painful.
Bayley was locked in one of them, seemingly destined for defeat, when she rolled Banks over for the win. That capped off a compelling bit of ring action that would have been the match of the night on many an NXT show.
Tyler Breeze finally challenging Adrian Neville for the NXT Championship outdid it, though.
Breeze planting Neville's head into the mat like a tent stake, both men leaving each other wobbly and Neville landing on his feet after failed high-flying moves were among the match's highlights. Tyson Kidd took a superkick to the chin when Neville believed he might interfere.
A three-way brawl ensued, ending the title match but hinting at an expanded feud in the near future.
Performances like this one suggest that the likely Kidd vs. Neville vs. Breeze clash is not one to be missed.